"I don’t own a lot of expensive stuff. In fact, I find joy in things that are understated – everyday products and tools that are highly functional, reasonably-priced and extremely well-designed."
1. Orient Bambino Automatic Watch
I’m a watch geek. They’re a perfect blend of fashion, design, and engineering. My first automatic watch was a budget-conscious Japanese timepiece called the Orient Bambino. The brand has great heritage (circa 1901) and is one of very few that create their own in-house movements at an affordable price (about $200). It features a vintage design style including a super slick domed crystal lens. Looks smart with shirt and jeans, or strap it on with a suit. Super classy.
2. Champion Benefit Map of the USA
About 15 years ago, I discovered I had a thing for maps. Champion International Paper produced a promo so beautiful I framed it and put it on my living room wall. Designed by Stephen Doyle, the intricate map of the USA showcased a relatively new printing technology – stochastic screening. Along with the insane detail and gorgeous colour palette, the map also features some fun facts. Did you know the hottest recorded temperature in America was 134°F degrees in Death Valley, California? So cool. Cost: Free (except for the framing).
3. Coca-Cola ‘Menu Girl’ Tray
I practically grew up in my dad’s Canadian-Chinese restaurant in Cornwall, Ontario. When he closed up shop for good about 20 years ago I kept a few mementos including this 1953 metal serving tray with amazing patina. It sits on my kitchen island with triple-duties as a paper tray, drinks platter and display art. Brings back the nostalgia of my childhood – sipping on ice cream floats on a hot summer day. I inherited this piece, but you can find this design and other similar vintage pieces on eBay for under $100 depending on condition.
4. Alessi Juicy Salif
Okay, arguably this juicer by starchitect Phillipe Starck is form over function. Reminiscent of an alien life form, this sculptural icon belongs in a museum more than on your kitchen counter. It was my first designer product purchase after graduating from OCA (before the D) back in ‘96. The alluring tear drop shape makes for a good conversation starter. And it works. Though I’d stick to a $25 OXO citrus squeezer if you’re in a hurry for a glass of fresh lemonade. It’s about $100. Not bad for a piece of art.
5. Lepy Audio Mini-Amplifier
Love music, but can’t afford a Sonos? The Lepy LP-2020A is available on Amazon for about $30. I love its no-nonsense design with limited controls, simple box shape and smooth aluminum finish. The only bell & whistle is a glowing volume knob to let you know it’s on. It has an RCA input for your MP3 player or phone. For somewhere around $30-$50 you can get a bluetooth or Wi-Fi adaptor to go wireless. Combine it with some cheap bookshelf speakers and you can have a decent sounding mini-system for under 250 bucks!